Stephen Thompson has let slip that former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman may be out of his title rematch with Leon Edwards at UFC 286 in London on March 18th due to a hand injury, and that Jorge Masvidal may be drafted in to replace him.
“People are in-talks of me fighting Leon Edwards,” Thompson had said during an interview on Fred Talks Fighting. “I know Kamaru Usman is having hand surgery, I know they want to fight somebody in March and they were looking at Jorge Masvidal. He’s a stand-up fighter, so it kind of inspires me a bit, our division is so wrestler-heavy, and Leon Edwards is a striker and he’s champ. So, anyone of those guys would be awesome.”
Thompson’s claims have not been confirmed at this stage, but if the rumor is true then it’s a major story, and in many respects a disappointing one as everyone was eager to see Edwards vs. Usman II after the dramatic conclusion to their first encounter earlier this year, which saw Usman winning handily right up until 56 seconds before the end of the fight when ‘Rocky’ suddenly unleashed a fight-ending head kick to win the title.
So, losing that match-up would be a huge blow for the promotion, and if you were purely going by the rankings and recent results then replacing Usman with Masvidal would make little sense as ‘Gamebred’ is on a three-fight losing streak that’s seen him slide down to No.11 on the 170lb ladder.
However, there is well publicized bad blood between these two after a backstage confrontation during a live broadcast several years ago that led to Masvidal landing a few punches before they were separated.
At different times over the years since both have talked about a potential fight between the two to settle the score, and perhaps the stars are now aligning for it, with the icing on the cake being that the initial scuffle between them actually also took place at the same 02 Arena in London that will host UFC 286.
That means it would be an easy match to promote, though fighters much higher up the rankings like Colby Covington, Khamzat Chimaev, Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns would likely feel very hard done by if they are overlooked.